Theoretical Framework and Core Concepts

  • Steven Loyal
  • Stephen Quilley


Focusing specifically on asylum seekers and their relation to the Irish State, this book contributes to the growing sociological literature on immigration and the nation-state. But exploring the patterns of asymmetrical interdependence between social groups and institutions, it is perhaps more satisfactorily understood as a contribution to the sociology of power. It deals with the dynamic power ratios between state institutions and asylum seekers in areas such as accommodation, freedom of movement and social/civil rights, distinctive patterns of bureaucratic processing, and the pervasive threat of expulsion from the territory. For liberals, systematic and selective social differentiation in the application of state power is perhaps shocking. But such discrimination is intrinsic to the operation of all nation-states, for better or for worse and without exception. In what follows, we refrain from both judgement and prescription. This is not because ethical and political appraisal has no place in the development of policy, but because such interventions are likely to be more effective to the extent that they are based upon realistic models of the underlying processes. Such scientific understanding of social processes and the development of appropriate models, especially with regard to highly emotionally charged discussions of issues such as migration, require a ‘detour via detachment’ (Elias 2007). With this in mind, our focus will be on these asymmetrical power ratios, on the ways in which they are shifting, and on the broader social impact of such changes. For Elias, power balances and power ratios characterize all relationships. In his counter-intuitive view, power is not a ‘thing’ that one can have (or not). Power is relational and distributed.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven Loyal
    • 1
  • Stephen Quilley
    • 2
  1. 1.University College DublinDublinIreland
  2. 2.University of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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